America’s Moral Meltdown
By Richard F. Ames
The United States is often considered one of the world’s leading nations. Sadly, America is more and more leading the world in immorality. How will the decline of this once-great nation affect our world—and you?
Great nations often reflect great character and purpose. But when their standards and values decline and decay, their days are numbered. When families are strong and parents instill true values and godly character in their children, the nation is strong. But when a society abandons traditional "family values," history shows that its day of judgment looms.
A May 2000 Gallup Poll revealed that 77 percent of Americans believe America’s moral values are growing worse ("Morality Ratings the Worst in Five Years," The Gallup Organization, May 25, 2006). Yet more than 80 percent of Americans consider themselves personally religious. Last year, Gallup reported: "Fifty-five percent [of Americans] say religion is ‘very important’ to them, and another 28 percent say ‘fairly important’" ("Faith Accompanies Most Americans Through Life," May 31, 2005).
With a majority of its citizens professing religious faith, is America morally strong? Or is the nation heading for a moral meltdown?
From its beginning, the United States has found its core values in the pages of the Bible. British historian Paul Johnson explained: "Hence, though the Constitution and the Bill of Rights made no provision for a state church—quite the contrary—there was an implied and unchallenged understanding that America was a religious country, that the republic was religious not necessarily in its forms but in its bones, that it was inconceivable that it could have come into existence, or could continue and flourish, without an overriding religious sentiment pervading every nook and cranny of its society. This religious sentiment was based on the Scriptures and the Decalogue, was embodied in the moral consensus of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and manifested itself in countless forms of mainly Christian worship" ("God and the Americans," Commentary, January 1995, p. 31).
At its foundation, the U.S. based its values "on the Scriptures and the Decalogue"—the Bible and the Ten Commandments. More than 200 years later, is the nation still living by biblical values?
Historically, marriage and the family have been the building blocks of society. When men and women transgress the Ten Commandments—when they practice adultery and unfaithfulness in their marriages—the family unit suffers. Ancient Rome at first emphasized strong families, but historians have documented Rome’s declining emphasis on morality, and how that decline affected Roman society. In his book, Ancient Education and Today, E. B. Castle wrote, "Added to this initial cause of family disruption [the increasing absence of traveling businessmen from their families] was the consequent easy attitude to the marriage tie, the increasing frequency of divorce, and the growing freedom and laxity in women’s morals, all of which ended in a loosening of the old family unity in which the best in Roman character had its roots" (p. 119).
Will modern Western civilization follow the pattern of Rome’s decay? Writing in the first century ad, the Roman philosopher Seneca observed that "some noble ladies reckon the years of their lives, not by the number of the consuls, but by that of their husbands, now that they leave their homes in order to marry others, and marry only in order to be divorced… no woman keeps a husband at all unless it be to pique her lover" (On Benefits, Book III, xvi).
Men, too, are seduced by the false allure of adultery. With increased access to birth control, and the easy availability of abortion on demand, sexual activity has increased in the last few decades as people think they can avoid its consequences. Millions fail to take seriously the simple biblical admonition, "You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14). Yet, if everyone kept this precept—the seventh of the Ten Commandments—lives would be far happier and society would be far more stable.
Divorce statistics in Western nations remain sobering. In the last 30 years, the percentage of married adults in the U.S. has dropped by 17 percent, and more than 40 percent of first marriages end in divorce (Time, September 26, 2000, p. 77). In Great Britain, 53 percent of all marriages end in divorce, and in Canada 45 percent of all marriages end in divorce (ibid., p. 76). The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported in June 2001 that Australia’s divorced population had increased by 172 percent between 1981 and 2001.
What a sad commentary on the family stability of those nations! Media and immoral culture influence many to divorce, weakening national character. Why? One reason is that societies increasingly reject biblical teachings, particularly the Ten Commandments! The fifth commandment states: "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you" (Exodus 20:12). If everyone kept the fifth and the seventh commandments, nations would experience stable and happy families.
Our modern Western world increasingly rejects the Ten Commandments and continues its slide into immorality. Just how bad is it? The Barna Research Group surveyed American’s attitudes toward ten moral behaviors, and found that 60 percent consider it acceptable for unmarried people to cohabit. Fifty-nine percent believe sexual fantasizing is appropriate. Nearly half (45 percent) consider abortion acceptable, and 42 percent approve of extramarital sex. Thirty-eight percent approve of pornography, and 30 percent find homosexuality acceptable ("Morality Continues to Decay," November 3, 2003).
Regardless of Americans’ opinions, do you realize that, according to biblical principles, those behaviors are morally wrong? Just as God is the Creator of the natural laws of physics and chemistry, He is also the Lawgiver of spiritual law. And those spiritual laws are just as real as the physical ones! From beginning to end, the Bible reveals that obedience to God’s revealed laws brings blessings, while disobedience brings curses and penalties. Scripture reminds us: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life" (Galatians 6:7–8).
We all need to keep the Ten Commandments. Even if our nation is turning away from the Ten Commandments—refusing even to let them be posted in public buildings—each of us individually can learn the true ways of love toward God and love toward neighbor. As we apply the Ten Commandments in our own lives, we will be following Jesus’ advice, "If you will enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17).
A nation that practices sexual licentiousness will pay the price. But we must ask ourselves individually: What is my attitude toward sexual activity? God created sex for intimacy, romance, and love in marriage, and to build a family. God’s way is the way of joy, peace, giving, serving, caring, and loving. Husbands and wives who love one another, and who are committed to one another, know the joys of intimacy that God intended. But there are consequences for disobedience. "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4). Marriage is a blessing, and sex is God’s great gift within marriage. Yet how many millions will receive God’s judgment for their fornication and adultery?
If you are engaging in sexual immorality, you need to repent. You need to confess your sin before God, then change your behavior and quit sinning! God will forgive you, if you truly repent and accept Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for your sins!
When ancient King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, the prophet Nathan convicted David of his sin. David did not try to justify his sin; he confessed it, and prayed: "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin" (Psalm 51:1–2).
Too many men and women today are not seeking God to help free them from the temptations of sexual immorality. Remember, Jesus taught us to pray, "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen" (Matthew 6:13).
Are we becoming a nation of adulterers? Newsweek magazine asked: "Just how many married women have had sex with people who are not their husbands? It’s hard to say for sure… Couples therapists estimate that among their clientele, the number is close to 30 to 40 percent, compared with 50 percent of men, and the gap is almost certainly closing… The best interpretation of the data: the cheating rate for women is approaching that of men." ("The New Infidelity," July 12, 2003).
What does your Bible reveal about adultery? The Apostle James reveals the reason for wars, and he indicts those who are lustful. "Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:1–4).
Are you an "enemy" of God? In the Barna report mentioned above, even a majority of those who call themselves Christians were supportive of cohabitation. Sixty-six percent of self-described Roman Catholics, and 50 percent of Protestants, said they believe it is okay for men and women to live together outside of marriage. Today, even many who call themselves "religious" just follow along with the immoral crowd and commit fornication and adultery.
This problem, however, is not new. In the first century ad, the Greek city of Corinth was a center of worldwide commerce, and it was also a center of paganism, idolatry and sexual immorality. Many Corinthians repented of their sinful lifestyle, and became Christians. The Apostle Paul warned them against the temptations of their day. "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9–10).
Are you practicing any of those behaviors? God says that none of those individuals will inherit the Kingdom of God! Some of the Corinthians had repented of those lifestyles and sins when they became Christians—and God forgave them! The Apostle Paul continues, "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (v. 11).
Some cities, states and countries act as if they know better than God. God defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The two shall become one flesh, He says. Yet more and more governments around the world are supporting same-sex unions. On November 18, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that according to the state Constitution, same-sex couples cannot be denied the right of civil marriage. The state of Vermont recognizes "civil unions" for same-sex couples. The Washington Post reported that in the Netherlands "As many as 8 percent of all marriages here, are now between people of the same sex" (Washington Post, p. A20, September 23, 2003). A national poll by Environics Research in the summer of 2003 reported that "Currently just over half of Canadians (53 percent) strongly (28 percent) or somewhat (25 percent) support" same-sex marriage.
These ungodly trends will bring God’s judgment on us, unless we repent individually and nationally. The enormity of these trends—including a nationwide push in the U.S. for the recognition of same-sex "marriage"—has led to a conservative move to amend the U.S. Constitution. In January 2005, 25 U.S. senators co-sponsored the "Marriage Protection Amendment," to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, for purposes of federal law. The amendment stated: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman."
Here we are in the prophesied end-times. Not that long ago, no one could have imagined that it might be necessary to amend the U.S. Constitution to define marriage. How far we have come from the days of which historian Paul Johnson wrote above! Worse, who would have imagined that 100 senators would not agree that marriage is the union between a man and a woman? Although same-sex marriage is not yet legal at the national level in the U.S., state governments are continuing to debate whether to do as Massachusetts has done, and establish same-sex "marriage." Other states, like Vermont and Connecticut, now allow what they call same-sex "civil unions." These offer most of the civil benefits of marriage, without using the word marriage. Several other states, including California, New Jersey and Maine, allow some form of same-sex domestic partnership.
Sadly, a majority of Americans approve of several other immoral behaviors. The above-mentioned Barna survey reported that 59 percent of Americans approve of sexual fantasizing. Are you misusing your mind in that way? Jesus Christ explained that we can sin in our minds, even without illicit sexual contact. Some religious people think that they can indulge in sexual fantasies without sinning. Yet carnal thoughts, including lustful thoughts that obsess about sex, are sinful. Jesus said, "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Matthew 15:18–19).
Those of you who indulge in pornography, or any sexual vice, need to repent! You need to quit sinning! You need to take steps to prevent your easy access to sexual temptations! The Apostle Paul gave this urgent instruction: "Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body" (1 Corinthians 6:18). Some think there are no penalties for easy sex, but God says that you sin against your own body!
The Apostle Paul continues, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, RSV).
If you have not already done so, I hope you will make that commitment to glorify God in your body and in your spirit. God’s way of life through Christ is the abundant life (John 10:10). God intended that we live according to His awesome and wonderful spiritual laws of love that produce genuine happiness.
The Great Commandments
The Almighty Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, have given us the principles, laws, and precepts that produce lasting peace and happiness. God, not mankind, defines marriage. Jesus Christ Himself taught what are called the two "great commandments"—to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:28–31). The first four of the Ten Commandments show us how to fulfill the first great commandment—to love God. The last six commandments show us how to fulfill the second great commandment—to love our neighbors. Yes, in order to fulfill Jesus’ command, we need to study and obey the Ten Commandments!
Sadly, our Western world is heading down a toboggan slide into immorality! What is the solution? We need to repent—nationally and individually—of our lustful, sinful lifestyles and attitudes. We need to get back to Scripture and the Ten Commandments!
Many years ago, in 1975, a television reporter asked me my appraisal of American morality. I answered, even then, that morality and godly character among Americans had declined—because biblical values were declining. When a nation reads the Bible and practices its precepts, it will prosper. But great neglect of the Bible and its teaching will continue to produce moral decline—and eventual national destruction.
Daniel Webster, the great American statesman, gave this warning about our national future: "If there is anything in my thoughts or style to commend, the credit is due to my parents for instilling in me an early love of the Scriptures. If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity" (Halley’s Bible Handbook, p. 18).
Our Western nations are neglecting—and increasingly rejecting—the instruction and authority of the Bible. We need to study the Bible and practice the way of life taught by the apostles, the prophets—and our Savior, Jesus Christ. They taught the Ten Commandments—God’s law of love—and its spiritual application. As Jesus said, "It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God’" (Luke 4:4). May we each put God’s word into action, in our hearts and in our lives!
The time is coming soon when God will punish America and the other Western nations for their immoral ways. But even if your nation does not change its ways, you can repent personally, turn to your Savior, Jesus Christ, and escape that time of judgment. Will you accept the challenge to live the abundant way of life taught in your Bible? If you do, you can rejoice in God’s divine blessings, receiving in this life a foretaste of what the whole earth will experience in Tomorrow’s World.
America—Beautiful No More